What is a man to do, but console his wife when she cries. It didna matter that the loss of a future I had been dreaming of from the night we wed, struck through my heart like a blade that had rested upon a burning fire for a fortnight. What mattered was that my wife shed tears. Not just for the loss of bairns, laughing through the bed-chamber walls. But the pain, she knew well enough, that she had just brought upon me. So, I did the only thing a man is supposed to do when confronted with his wife’s pain – sealed mine off and took hers within me, like I took her body in my arms. Claire’s hot tears soaked through my kerchief and I could feel the salt bite against my skin.
“Shh. Dinna fash, Mo nighean don. It will be alright,” I pulled her from my embrace, holding her at length from my body, to look in her eyes, “It is you I want, lass. Only you I need. Everything else will fall into place as it should.”
Her chin quivered and fresh tears pooled in her eyes. I wiped them with my thumb as her head rested against my hand.
She sighed, eyes closed, “The thought never crossed my mind. It should have. Before I came back to you. After the stones,” she opened her eyes then, crystal blue jewels drowning in a bubbling and salty sea, “Perhaps if I thought of what you may want with your life. You always spoke of family. It never occurred to me to think of someone other than myself that day at Craigh Na Dun.”
“Claire, do you think knowing such a thing would have changed my mind? There was no changing it from the moment we met.” She hiccupped, like a wee lass that had drunk her father’s whisky without him knowin’. “You’re my wife, Claire. I told ye, from the moment I looked up at you when you were tending to my wounds.”
She smiled and bowed her head to me, “That you wanted me.”
I smiled, returning the wee bit of sunshine she had just given me, with my own, “Aye. And when ye wept in my arms, I knew that I loved ye. Ye ken that well enough.”
“Yes. But didn’t you imagine a family? Children running around – “
I stopped her words with a gentle kiss, lingering for a solitary moment before breaking free, “There will always be children around, Sassenach. So long as we stay here. Stay home. There will always be weeins to chase after.” With a hint of a smile through a troubled face, she nodded.
I pulled her into my embrace once more. Her weeping had ceased, but she melted into my body and held on.
What more was a man to do then to hold on, just as tight.
It was the truth. I had never thought of a family with Jamie. Even when I had made that final decision to stay in 1743. To stay with Jamie and make my life here. It had never crossed my mind to share the knowledge of my body’s lack of ability to bear a child. All I remember, after tossing Jamie and Frank through the air as if on trampolines, back and forth through my mind, was that whenever I envisioned Jamie’s face, that crooked smile in his sleep or his strong embrace, it felt like home. I never thought about the absence of a child.
He had held me while I wept, and yet, it didn’t feel my place to do so. Yes, I desperately wanted to be a mother. Perhaps more so with Jamie than ever with Frank. I could see him teaching our son how to be a man, planting crops in the fields and using his hands for more than just fighting. Reading out poems and scripture. Or a daughter. A daughter to ride upon his back, as if he were a giant steed. I felt myself smile against his chest. Yes. He would love a daughter more than he ever thought possible. Would cradle her in his arms and protect her from the world.
But he may never have that daughter. And I was the reason why.
I pulled my body free of hers, watching her eyes find mine in wonder. I kissed her lips, so warm and inviting. My tongue begged for entrance, and she allowed. I explored her mouth with tenderness and care, like the stories she would tell of her Uncle on expeditions, seeking out the finest of hidden treasures.
Her hands dropped to my waist, resting, just so. I drew back, my forehead against hers, until I kissed it and fell, slowly, to my knees. I held onto my wife, my arms wrapped around her waist, weeping silently into her skirts as I felt her skilled, gentle fingers run through my hair. The touch soothed me. She was meant to be a mother, I thought, drawing in a breath, taking in her scent. I could smell her, even through her clothes. A hint of honey and sweat. Intoxicating.
I could feel myself stiffen beneath my kilt. My sister down the hall in childbirth. My home taken over by The Watch. My wife telling me children would not happen. And yet I knelt on the floor in sadness with a cockstand. What an odd thing, grief.
My head turned, to and fro, across her skirt. Too many thoughts plagued my mind, but the one that stood out was – I wanted her. I wanted to take solace in her body. I wanted my anger to be heard, if only with flesh. I wasna angry with her. Just with what this was.
I unclasped her body from my embrace, my hands coming to rest upon her hips. My grip tightened, yet her comforting strokes through the curly tendrils of my hair never ceased.
Claire fell to her knees, my hands still persistent on her hips, her tears now gone, concern only left. And only for me. “You’re angry with me. I understand.”
I shook my head, feeling my fingers tighten. “No. Not with you, monie en don,” they released their agonizing grip on her waist, the pain deciding to recede as I gazed into her eyes. “Never with you. Is just, I sit here, knowin’ my sister with child – another – and yet, that canna be you. Or me.”
“Jamie,” her hands cupped my face until she leaned in, scratching her soft cheek upon my beard. She continued this for moments longer than intended, I thought. Perhaps she needed to feel pain too. Something more than just the feeling inside. It had to be real. It wasna real if it didn’t cut the skin.
Claire pulled free, her face red, flushed from tears and bristle. I could see it in her eyes. She needed me as much as I needed her. Jenny and the bairn would have to wait. Knowin’ when you’re needed, when you have need yourself, is a struggle. How do you choose what need is more important?
I gripped her waist, quick and firm, and pushed her to the floor. She pulled on her skirts, raising them as high as she could. I was on top of her with haste as I pushed her back. My dirk rested between her womanhood and myself. The hardness causing her leg to jump in pleasure and me to pull back in pain as I quickly pushed it to the side, lifted my kilt and pushed for home.
We kissed passionately. Woefully. Our sorrow coming in bursts of lust and clutching fingers. Claire ripped at my back and I at her breasts, pulling one free from her corset, before latching onto the nipple that would only nourish me. Never a child. I thrusted with uncontrolled motion as I felt her legs wrap around my body, her hair falling loose around her neck. With each push and claw of nails, I began lamenting, until finally, I came into her body, strong bursts of spasms racking my body as I fell into her breasts, weeping like a child.
We stayed motionless, he upon my breast with my fingers in his hair, cradling him like an infant and never making him feel any less of a man for it.
For what is a man to do, but let his wife take the burden from his shoulders.